BODY OF WORK

The erotic images taken by a Chinese photographer that provoked a sex-shy nation to censor him

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

China just lost one of the few artists bold enough to explore the natural beauty of the human body.

The Chinese photographer Ren Hang, known for his erotic photographs, committed suicide at age 29 on Feb. 24 (link in Chinese).

Over the past decade Ren traveled the world displaying his racy and provocative work in more than 20 solo exhibitions. But in sex-shy China, he faced heavy censorship and was arrested several times.

Ren appeared to suffer from depression. In January, he wrote two posts on his Weibo account (link in Chinese) foreshadowing his death: “Every year I make the same wish: to die early” and “Hope the wish will come true this year.”

A post shared by RenHang (@renhangrenhang) on

Born in China’s northeast Jilin province, Ren began shooting nude pictures of friends and acquaintances during his college years in Beijing. His signature style was to desexualize naked bodies while turning them into authentic, original, human-shaped sculptures, through which he felt “the real existence of people,” he told Vice in a 2013 interview.

However, the conservative society he lived in often considered his work to be pornographic. Authorities canceled one of this shows because they were “suspicious of sex,” Ren told Vice. He said he sometimes ran away from police when he saw them because “China doesn’t allow outdoor nudity.”

Despite his troubles with the law, he insisted his work was not political. Fotografiska, a photography museum in Sweden, has an exhibition of Ren’s work running until April 2. In its introduction to the artist he’s quoted as saying, “My art is not trying to intrude into the politics of China, it is the politics of China that is intruding into my art.”

Shoot with Sakura Ando for PURPLE FASHION magazine

A post shared by RenHang (@renhangrenhang) on

A post shared by RenHang (@renhangrenhang) on

A post shared by RenHang (@renhangrenhang) on

A post shared by RenHang (@renhangrenhang) on

"OCTOBER", 2016

A post shared by RenHang (@renhangrenhang) on

"OCTOBER", 2016

A post shared by RenHang (@renhangrenhang) on

A post shared by RenHang (@renhangrenhang) on

A post shared by RenHang (@renhangrenhang) on

A post shared by RenHang (@renhangrenhang) on

A post shared by RenHang (@renhangrenhang) on

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